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Original Investigation
July 10, 2000

Do Triglycerides Provide Meaningful Information About Heart Disease Risk?

Author Affiliations

From the General Internal Medicine Section, Veterans Affairs Medical Center, San Francisco, Calif (Dr Avins), and the Department of Epidemiology and Biostatistics, University of California, San Francisco (Drs Avins and Neuhaus).

Arch Intern Med. 2000;160(13):1937-1944. doi:10.1001/archinte.160.13.1937

Background  Prior research suggests that adding triglyceride determinations to measurements of total cholesterol and cholesterol subfractions may improve the prediction of coronary heart disease (CHD).

Objective  To determine the additional value of measuring triglyceride levels, in addition to cholesterol levels and subfractions, for predicting CHD.

Study Design  A set of secondary analyses of previously reported studies.

Methods  We performed secondary analyses of data from the Multiple Risk Factor Intervention Trial, the Lipid Research Clinics Coronary Primary Prevention Trial, and the Lipid Research Clinics Prevalence and Mortality Follow-Up Study. Predictor variables included the levels of fasting triglycerides, total cholesterol, low-density lipoprotein cholesterol, high-density lipoprotein cholesterol, and fasting blood glucose; age; blood pressure; cigarette smoking; body mass index; and postmenopausal estrogen use. Analytic methods included Cox proportional hazards models, calculation of stratified crude incidence rates, and measurement of the area under the receiver operating characteristic curve.

Main Outcome Measures  Outcome variables were fatal and nonfatal myocardial infarctions.

Results  With few exceptions, no significant interactions between cholesterol subfractions and triglyceride levels were found and receiver operating characteristic curve analyses revealed that triglyceride measurements did not improve discrimination between those subjects who did and did not suffer CHD events. In men, categorical analyses employing both triglyceride and cholesterol levels were similar to those using cholesterol categories alone. In the one study of women, those subjects with both a high-risk cholesterol profile and high triglyceride levels were more likely to have a CHD event, though this finding was based on fewer subjects and CHD events.

Conclusion  These data suggest that, in men, measurement of serum triglyceride levels does not provide clinically meaningful information about CHD risk beyond that obtainable by measurement of serum cholesterol subfractions alone.